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William Shakespeare’s belief in humanism was a contradiction to commonly belied ideals of infinite spirit and destiny in the 1600s. Making Romeo and Juliet tragedy a mask for fate versus free will.

During the Elizabethan era, one’s destiny or fate was viewed by most as predetermined. Individuals of the time believed in astrology, the philosophy that one’s life was moderately decided by stars and planets. From the prologue, it’s implied that fate lies behind the tragedy that unfolds. Fate is a force that neither the characters nor the audience can escape. With many unwitting references to the imminent deaths of Romeo and Juliet. However, there are many points in the play where different decisions could have been taken, resulting in a different outcome. Within this tragedy, foreshadowing, structure, and metaphors are the literary devices used to carry the story. Both Romeo and Juliet despite their misgivings or sense of unease continue to act out of a sense of free will almost challenging fate itself.

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Shakespeare uses many metaphors in the play “Romeo and Juliet.” This is to show each of the character’s inner thinking. In Act 1 Scene 4 Romeo expresses his dream in such an intense and passionate way regarding love and the idealists of life. Romeo refers to his dream as a journey that God is in control of.”But he that hath the steerage of my course.” Romeo has placed his trust in God to provide for his life. If Romeo’s life is a ship then God is the captain directing his path. The Catholic church was an important part of society and played a role in people’s lives. Shakespeare in this metaphor is explaining that Romeo is calling himself a ship and God is the captain. Romeo knows that God has plotted this path for him. Romeo is going to let himself be steered by God. So even though Romeo has numerous opportunities and warnings to slow down or think about the consequences of his actions, he didn’t. Because he felt so strongly that the challenges he faced were God directing him to his destiny. The character of Romeo during this time was a direct representation of the people in the audience during the 16th century. For the duration of the play, the audience was left knowing the foreshadowing of the prologue and that the characters had the option to choose to not follow through with some of their actions. He was leaving with Shakespeare’s belief that maybe humans don’t need God to be the captain of our lives only a reliable source to help us during more challenging times.

Of all the characters it’s the friar’s decisions that have the biggest bearing on the young lovers. Is it possible to argue that fate was responsible when there were several opportunities for the friar to alter their paths so was it inevitable that Romeo and Juliet would end up dead? In Act 2 Scene 3 he explains that some plants are medicinal and poisonous as Romeo enters. The Structure Shakespeare, so at the very instant the audience hears about poison and the way Romeo kills himself, he enters the stage. As the friar explains this in his soliloquy he mentions “ Being tasted, stays all senses with the heart ( )” and this foreshadows the death of Romeo. The structure makes the events easier to understand for the audience and foreshadowing reminds them of fate and that events have already been predetermined, linking back to the prologue. The friar tries to put his theories to use when he agrees to marry the young couple because he hopes the love will end the feuding households. Unfortunately, the friar causes the very opposite. The plan involving the sleep-inducing potion results in both their deaths. The friar is almost working against fate but then ironically helps it as he speeds up the deaths of the lovers.

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Essay on ‘Romeo and Juliet’: Fate Vs Free Will.
(2023, November 15). Edubirdie. Retrieved January 20, 2024, from

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